Cuba Bird Survey | Eastern Cuba’s Mountains, Coast and Colonial Settlements
January 23 – February 2, 2020
The Caribbean Conservation Trust (CCT) is offering an exclusive first time, U.S. led and managed birding program to Eastern Cuba! The program is coordinated under U.S. government authorization by CCT, which is based in Connecticut. CCT staff have a 23 year history of managing bird conservation programs in Cuba. Along with Dr. Matthew Perry and Cuban Biologist Dr. Luis Diaz, our team will include a bilingual Cuban tour guide, and an additional regionally located Cuban naturalist. They will guide you through a variety of natural areas in Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest and most ecologically diverse island nation.
Our program begins in Holguin, on Cuba’s north east coast following a direct flight from Miami. Our arrival day in Cuba includes airport transfer, a meeting with our guide, our hotel and dinner just outside Holguin.
CCT designed this itinerary to take you to Eastern Cuba’s best and most accessible bird habitats, most beautiful national parks, diverse biosphere reserves, and unique natural areas. We will interact with local scientists and naturalists who work in research and conservation. In addition to birding, we will learn about the ecology and history of regions we visit. Finally, we can expect some degree of indulgence in the richness of Cuban culture, and history that is unique to this part of Cuba.
According to BirdLife International, which has designated 28 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Cuba, “Over 370 bird species have been recorded in Cuba, including 28 which are endemic to the island and 29 considered globally threatened. Due to its large land area and geographical position within the Caribbean, Cuba represents one of the most important countries for Neotropical migratory birds – both birds passing through on their way south (75 species) and those spending the winter on the island (86 species).“
Our itinerary provides opportunities to see many of Cuba’s endemic species and subspecies, as listed below. This trip will also focus on the many neotropical migrant species that migrate south to Cuba in the fall and winter in Cuba (endemic and endemic subspecies in italics):
Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler, Bare-legged Owl, Blue-headed Quail Dove, Grey-fronted Quail Dove, Cuban Oriole, Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Grassquit, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Pewee, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Vireo, Fernandina’s Flicker, Giant Kingbird, Gundlach’s Hawk, Eastern Meadowlark, Cuban Nightjar, Tawny-shouldered Blackbird, Cuban Sparrow (eastern race), Cuban Crow, Cuban Emerald, and Cuban Bullfinch.
Other species of interest include:
Great Lizard-Cuckoo, Western Spindalis, Red-legged Honeycreeper, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Loggerhead Kingbird, Olive-capped Warbler, Key West Quail-Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Zenaida Dove, Stygian Owl, and numerous other migratory and resident species.
Where We Travel
We will visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (two of the six UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Cuba are located in the eastern provinces), National Parks, and various other protected areas. These will include five BirdLife Internationaldesignated Important Bird Areas (IBAs ) – Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve, Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, as well as Baitiquirí, Boqueron, and Gran Piedra reserves.
Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve
Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve covers portions of Cuba’s easternmost provinces: Holguín and Guantánamo. This Biosphere Reserve is one of Cuba’s most important protected areas in terms of biodiversity and endemism. Of the reserve’s 180,000 acres, approximately 5,600 correspond to its marine habitats, while the remaining area is terrestrial.
Alejandro de Humboldt National Park
Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is the center piece of this biosphere reserve. The park is considered to be of global importance as one of the most biologically diverse tropical ecosystems in the Western Hemisphere. The property contains 16 out of 28 plant formations defined on the island of Cuba, and is considered an important site for the conservation of endemic flora, as almost 70% of the 1,302 species of the seed plants (spermatophyta) found here are endemic to the park. Endemism rates for vertebrates and invertebrates found in the park are also very high. Countless species are severely restricted in their range, which adds to the importance of the property. The park is set in Cuba’s coolest and wettest environment, and the lush forests here support a large number of endemic birds (including Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Giant Kingbird), and various resident and migratory birds.
In Bahia del Taco, where the park headquarters are located, the Polymita – a colorful endemic land snail (polymytas picta) can be easily found. They are common here most likely because of the protection afforded by park personnel. Outside of this area they have been illegally collected for trade (cheap jewelry) and are therefore threatened. The Cuban race of the Antillean Manatee (endangered) are also found in the surrounding waters of the peaceful, protected bay.
Guantanamo Province is geographically Cuba’s southeastern most point, boasting an exceptionally beautiful, natural and large subtropical bay surrounded by vibrant vegetation and a unique semi-circle of low slung mountains. To the north (within the previously described Cuchillas del Toa Bisophere Reserve) are the wettest mountain ranges in Cuba featuring unsurprisingly the largest rivers in Cuba. Conversely, to the south and west of the province lies the semi-desert Los Cerros de los Monitongosmountains. Renowned nationally as the driest place in Cuba, its unusual climate and terrain describe a mountainous, coastal desert in striking contrast with what is essentially tropical Cuba. This unique microclimate brings with it a unique range of animal and plant species endemic to this tiny area of Cuba. Near the important bird area at Baitiquiri is Cajobabo Beach, a National Monument commemorating the landing of Jose Marti and General Maximo Gomez in 1895, to participate in the War of Independence which eventually succeeded in ending 400 years of Spanish colonial rule. We will explore protected natural areas to the east and west of Guantanamo Bay, affording distant views of the U.S. Naval base. Our most advantageous location for lodging will be Guantanamo City, directly north of the bay.
Looming over Santiago de Cuba is Gran Piedra (Giant Stone) Reserve, and the northern peaks of the Sierra Maestra Mountain Range. As the pinnacle of this important UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Gran Piedra includes the namesake 65,000 ton
boulder of volcanic origin resting near the summit, which is just over 4,000 feet above sea level. Along with a weather station, a Franco- Haitian coffee plantation and museum, the area around the summit
features a botantical garden featuring an abundance of ferns and other flora quite unique in Cuba. Here humid evergreen forests predominate and ferns abound. With great contrast, the coastal vegetation is typical of semi-desert areas with Cactaceae and Spiny Shrubs.
Bacanao Biosphere Reserve
The Siboney Ecological Reserve is located east of the city of Santiago de Cuba. The reserve is narrow and elongated, and is located within the Bacanao Biosphere Reserve. Among the most significant features of this landscape are the marine terraces that give the appearance of giant steps. In total eight levels of marine terraces occur between emergent and submerged. The existence of 33 caves and grottoes, along with other karstic features such as streams, sinkholes, small canyons and depressions with red soil support the existence of high species diversity of both marine and terrestrial life.
Registration & Trip Costs
Land costs for the 11 day program is $ 4,195.00 per person for shared accommodations. Single supplements are an additional $ 475.00 per person.